The 10 Best “Hidden Gem” Schools in Metropolitan Boston

Boston is known for many things: the Red Sox, Fenway Park, Freedom Trail, Quincy Market, and top-notch private universities.

Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Boston University, and Tufts are some of the schools that attract students and faculty from the far corners of the world. With such a far reach, these colleges often overshadow other fantastic schools in and around the metropolitan Boston area, which includes Waltham, Cambridge, Brookline, Somerville, Medford, Milton, Quincy, and Newton.

These areas are home to hidden gem schools that provide many of the same internship opportunities and vibrant city life as the top schools, but without the extreme acceptance rates. Students get a top-tier education in exchange for less application stress.

These schools also give undergraduates valuable technical and professional opportunities that boost their prospects in terms of employability and salary.

Students enjoy a world-class education in the heart of Boston without the intense competitiveness of more popular Boston schools, and yet they graduate with equally competitive skills and experiences. Students can explore a mix of technical programs and liberal arts curricula, as well as a plethora of academic and career-related organizations and clubs.

So if you’re looking for a great school in this iconic city, consider the following 10 hidden gems.

Wentworth Institute of Technology (Boston, MA)

Wentworth Institute of Technology
Martina10, Wentworth Institute’s Quad, CC BY-SA 4.0

For students interested in gaining practical experience and being hired immediately following graduation, Wentworth is worth a serious look.

In 2019, 97% of students were hired or enrolled in graduate school within six months after graduation. The median salary for alumni with at least 10 years of experience is $112,700.

The institute offers 22 bachelor’s and 12 master’s degrees in engineering, computer science, design, and management. Undergraduates are required to complete two semesters of cooperative education in work placements, applying classroom lessons to the real world. Wentworth’s technical curriculum ensures that students are equipped with the necessary skills to succeed in their preferred industry.

Notable alumni Russell Colley was a NASA engineer and inventor who created the silver nylon suits used in the first manned space mission, Project Mercury.

Lasell University (Newton, MA)

Lasell University
Yordan Villalon, Lasell University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Lasell is notable for connecting 100% of their students with at least one internship over the course of their college career. Many do more, gaining hands-on experience at leading businesses and research organizations.

It’s all part of the school’s integrated Connected Learning program. This takes the form of internships, but also service-learning, studying abroad, and a tuition-reducing professional track called Lasell Works.

Starting in sophomore year, Lasell Works prepares students for their chosen career through online courses, professional work experience, and faculty mentoring. Students live off-campus and are immersed early in their chosen field so that they graduate better-prepared and less indebted than their peers from other schools.

Lasell is well-known for its excellent fashion program, offering majors in fashion design & production, fashion media & marketing, and fashion merchandising & management. Fashion majors put together the annual Lasell Fashion Show, from the runway fashions themselves to the event promo. Fashion model and actress Nancy Donahue is a famous alum.

Curry College (Milton, MA)

Curry College started as a school of elocution in 1879, and to this day, it is still a revered school to study the written and spoken word.

The department of communication is highly renowned, as it sponsors two award-winning media outlets: non-commercial radio station WMLN-FM 91.5, supervised by Professor Alan Frank, and TV station CC8, run by Professor Jerry Gibbs.

In 1973, Curry launched the Program for Advancement of Learning (PAL) to aid college-level students with language-based learning difficulties. PAL continues to make Curry a leader today in the field of language-related disabilities.

Curry’s School of Nursing offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as certificates. Nursing students benefit from a rigorous STEM education with the convenience of being located near downtown Boston in a liberal arts college.

Emmanuel College (Boston, MA)

Emmanuel College
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to its partnership with Merck, Emmanuel is “the only college in the country with a private pharmaceutical research facility right on campus.” Merck Research Laboratories-Boston is a 300,000 square foot, 12-story center where students learn directly from pharmaceutical professionals and faculty. Emmanuel students even have the option of interning for the company.

But they aren’t limited to a Merck internship. In fact, like Lasell, the college matches 100% of its students with internship opportunities in and around Boston. The small liberal arts school’s dynamic metropolitan location makes it the perfect place for students to grow and challenge themselves.

On campus, there are a number of academic clubs and organizations, centered around subjects such as art history, psychology, STEM, history, and education.

Famous alumni include Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mary McGrory and Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan.

Cambridge College (Boston, MA)

A private, nonprofit institution, Cambridge College has long been a pioneer in adult learning, with most classes offered in the evenings and geared towards those with work experience.

In fact, students applying to the graduate healthcare management program must have 3-5 years of professional experience. Other certificates and bachelor’s and master’s degree programs cover education, psychology, counseling, management, and human services.

Cambridge’s 450+ faculty members are scholar-practitioners who bring their work experiences to the classroom. 

Cambridge also runs four other regional centers in Springfield and Lawrence, Massachusetts; Rancho Cucamonga, California; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

Notable faculty include four-time American Football League All-Star Larry Garron and Emmy Award winning composer Brad Hatfield, who now teaches at Berklee College of Music and Northeastern University.

Lesley University (Cambridge, MA)

Lesley University
Pundit, Lesley University admissions, CC BY-SA 3.0

Lesley University’s legacy of embracing the arts and sciences through a liberal arts education model has endured to this day.

For example, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in expressive arts therapy pave the way for students to make a difference in people’s lives as mental health counselors, hospital art therapists, grief counselors, or mindfulness coaches. In fact, Lesley is a pioneer in the field of art therapy, an interdisciplinary field that blends psychology, art, music, dance, drama, and creative writing.

The university offers 20 other bachelor’s and 90 master’s degrees. This includes a bachelor’s program for adult learners, which utilizes a hybrid education model (online and in-person classes) for maximum flexibility.

Famous alumni include Massachusetts politician Althea Garrison, Berklee College of Music faculty member Stan Strickland, and prolific cookbook author Barbara Grunes.

Emerson College (Boston, MA)

Emerson College
John Phelan, Emerson College, Boston MA, CC BY 3.0

Like Curry College, Emerson began as a school of oratory in the late 19th century. Today it is still a leading liberal arts school for communication and the arts. 

In fact, Emerson is made up of two schools — the School of Communication and School of the Arts. Within them are eight departments: Marketing Communication; Communication Studies; Journalism; Communication Sciences and Disorders; Performing Arts; Writing, Literature, and Publishing; Visual and Media Arts; and Comedic Arts.

Due to its laser focus on the arts, Emerson is responsible for quite a few noteworthy productions and organizations: award-winning TV station Emerson Channel, entertainment magazine Emertainment Monthly, Emerson Dance Company, and 11 comedy troupes.

Notable alumni include Emmy-nominated actor Denis Leary, U.S. presidential advisor Suzan Johnson Cook, producer Vin Di Bona, and Tony-winning actress Andrea Martin.

Suffolk University (Boston, MA)

Suffolk University Law School
Marco Almbauer, Sargent Hall, Suffolk University, CC0 1.0

Sawyer Business School at Suffolk is one of the nation’s top business schools, according to Princeton Review. Suffolk Law School is also highly regarded, especially for its program in legal writing, which U.S. News ranks #4 in the country.

Suffolk is also home to research centers and organizations dedicated to a variety of fields: the Centers for Crime & Justice Policy Research, Teaching & Scholarly Excellence, Restorative Justice, and Women’s Health and Human Rights; the Moakley Center for Public Management; the Poetry Center; Political Research Centers; and the Sagan Energy Research Laboratory.

In addition to law, business, and politics, the school is dedicated to the arts, to which the campus Art Gallery is dedicated. The gallery serves as a venue to learn about Boston’s cultural heritage, present new works by local artists, and display student art.

Famous alumni include Poker Hall of Famer Dan Harrington, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Joan Vennochi, and YouTube personality Jenna Marbles.

Bentley University (Waltham, MA)

Bentley University
Fogster, Bentley College Library, CC BY 3.0

Bentley is a top performer in U.S. News’s rankings of regional universities in the north: #1 overall, #2 for best value, and #4 for most innovative. 

Good student outcomes are mostly to thank — 92% of students complete at least one internship, 98% get a job or graduate school position within 6 months of graduation, and the median starting salary for a Bentley grad is over $62,000.

For those particularly interested in business or political leadership, Bentley is the place to go. Students can choose between 25 majors and 34 minors, combining their interests in business, politics, technology, and liberal arts.

Notable alumni include NFL football player turned Massachusetts governor Edward King, Dream Theater drummer Mike Mangini, and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno, who attended for one semester.

Simmons University (Boston, MA)

Simmons University
Beyond My Ken, Simmons University, Boston, CC BY-SA 4.0

Simmons University stands out from this list through its stellar, women-focused undergraduate program and co-ed graduate programs.

Since its founding in 1899, the university’s mission has always been to empower women through education.

Thanks to a rigorous undergraduate liberal arts curriculum, Simmons women can customize their degrees and cultivate their own unique leadership style. All undergraduates intern, conduct research, do fieldwork, or participate in clinicals, graduating with a solid foundation in their chosen professional field.

Graduate programs encompass nursing, business, communications, social work, public health, and library and information science. In the spirit of female empowerment, the Strategic Leadership for Women certificate program coaches working women on their distinct challenges and leadership issues. By the time they are certified, they will have a personalized action plan curated towards their success.

Notable alumni include fantasy author Kristin Cashore, NBC news correspondent Rehema Ellis, and computer scientist and mathematician Lenore Blum.

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